BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – LIKE many countries the world over, the infestation of conflict-oriented politics and its proponents have led to the creation of polarisation in St. Kitts and Nevis.
This is not something of regency, but a phenomenon that dates back to the formation of political parties in the United Kingdom Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. It however became more pronounced after Anguilla’s separation from St. Kitts and Nevis.
Historically, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) was always in conflict with the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and the same can be said of the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM).
We have seen the emergence of colours, their symbolism and the division of communities as well as families and friends, especially at times of election.
While the aim of political parties in opposition is to keep the government’s feet to the proverbial fire, parties in government on both islands have always been accused of corruption, victimisation and, at times, nepotism by those in opposition.
But were all of those accusations based on truth?
This writer strongly believes that many of those accusations were false and could be termed propaganda.
In some quarters, it is believed that Propagandisation and mental conditioning have become ensconced in the cultural psychology of many party supporters in the Federation who, on numerous occasions were fed with unfettered propaganda and made to develop opinions that were severely flawed and self-destructive.
Propaganda, coupled with sleaze and character assassination, is the order of the day and this can seriously imperil the upward mobility of the Federation and relationships among communities and families.
The citizenship and passport issue
Currently, there are two issues that have the potential to adversely affect the political landscape of St. Kitts and Nevis – the citizenship and passports accusations.
Are these accusations propaganda, or are they based on truth? Only time and investigation would tell!
The first accusation was made against Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, who articulated to the media during his monthly press conference on Tuesday (Oct. 3) that certain information was recently drawn to his attention which he felt obliged, in the public’s interest, to share with the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“I made these comments with respect to the information. One, Dr. Denzil Douglas is a citizen of another country other than St. Kitts and Nevis. Dr. Denzil Douglas promotes the CIP of another country and undermines that of St. Kitts and Nevis. Thirdly, Dr. Denzil Douglas strangely holds a diplomatic passport of another country.”
The Prime Minister challenge Dr. Douglas “to confirm the truth or otherwise of the foregoing information to which I have been made privy to and I have fared in the public interest”.
He also said: “The possession of a passport by the Leader of the Opposition, other than a St. Kitts and Nevis passport, in my view, raises significant questions of a civic, political and constitutional nature. And I posit the following for consideration.
“In my humble view, the people of St. Kitts and Nevis have a constitutional right to be represented only by people who owe and who appear to owe their undivided loyalty and allegiance to the Federation.”
Dr. Harris further said that the matter bears an investigation, which should consider whether holding the diplomatic passport undermines the Federal interest of St. Kitts and Nevis.
In response on the following day while a guest on Freedom FM’s radio programme – ‘Issues’ – Dr. Douglas denied being a citizen of any country other than St. Kitts and Nevis and claimed Dr. Harris made that statement, among others, in an attempt to “lure you away from focusing on the failing policies of the government of incompetence that he leads”.
Dr. Douglas told the listening public that during his address to the nation on Monday (Oct. 3) on Kyss FM, he had posed a number of serious and pertinent questions to the Prime Minister about the inclusion of a third aspect to the Federation’s Citizenship By Investment Programme.
“Instead of responding to those questions that focus on the good people’s business, especially at these difficult times, he used our taxpayers’ dollars to hold a press conference to spew untruth about the Leader of the Opposition.”
The leader of the SKNLP reminded that he was Prime Minister of the twin-island Federation for close to 20 years, a Parliamentarian since 1989 and that he is not the holder of dual citizenship.
“I have never held and will never ever hold the citizenship of any other country, except the one in which I was born and the one to which I have committed my life to serve. Prime Minister Harris, he is a vindictive and treacherous coward who has little respect for the office that he holds and for the people in whose trust he serves...”
He added: “Dr. Harris believes that his attempt to spite the Leader of the Opposition by disrespecting him, failing to release funding for his office as required by law as Leader of the Opposition and refusing him the use of a diplomatic passport are reasonable courses of action in a modern St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Dr. Douglas made reference to the time when he was prime minister and what he had done for his predecessor and his wife.
“When I was in office, I afforded Dr. Sir Kennedy Simmonds and his wife diplomatic passports because it was the right thing to do despite our political differences. He was a former prime minister; he is today our National Hero. He deserved that kind of respect and I gave him that respect.”
He however stressed that the Federation’s Political Leader did not afford him the same treatment and respect, and that Dr. Harris is angry because of the offers made to him by a number of Caribbean leaders.
“Dr. Harris, like a jealous spoilt child, is irate that my colleague Caribbean leaders have reached out to accommodate me with diplomatic status as a former prime minister and Caribbean leader. However, I, Dr. Denzil Llewellyn Douglas, will never ever accept the citizenship of any other country.”
He said if someone holds a diplomatic status for another country, that does not make him or her citizen of that country.
Reiterating his position on dual citizenship, Dr. Douglas said: “I hold no second citizenship for any other country. I hold one citizenship and that is for St. Kitts and Nevis. If any of my colleagues offers me diplomatic status, I have been advised that it does not give me any citizenship within the country. I have never applied for citizenship in any country. I will not do so...”
He accused Dr. Harris of being selfish, self-serving and called upon him to retract his statement.
“I give him 48 hours to retract his statement and to apologise. If he does not, I will then pass the information to my lawyers for them to institute what I believe should be a defamation law suit against Dr. Harris.”
Since then, no word was heard on the retraction or law suit.
Accusation against PM Harris
Some two weeks after it was alleged that Dr. Douglas has dual citizenship and is the holder of a diplomatic passport of another country, it was alleged that PM Harris is the holder of a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
This is according to an article posted on Thursday (Oct. 19) by the online media house, Caribbean News Now, headlined “St. Kitts-Nevis PM now revealed to hold Dominica diplomatic passport.”
Included in that article were the alleged photo pages of diplomatic passports of Dominica, purportedly belonging to Dr. Douglas and PM Harris.
However, a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary on Friday (Oct. 20), entitled “Statement by the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, in response to malicious article in Caribbean News Now,” Dr. Harris denied the allegation and expressed strong objection the what he termed “a spurious report”.
The release also stated that PM Harris rejected the story as well as the demonstrably falsified image of a passport accompanying it, as utterly baseless and malicious.
“Prime Minister Harris categorically denies having a Dominica diplomatic passport or any other passport. He has never had a Dominican diplomatic passport or a passport from any other country except for this beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis is disappointed that this shameless piece of inflammatory propaganda – which was initially circulated on social media by St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party supporters – would make its way into a publication professing to cover regional news based on journalistic merit, professionalism and media standards.”
Additionally, the release indicated that Dr. Harris and his legal counsel are exploring all necessary avenues to correct the record, protect his good name and ensure that all those involved in propagating this lie are held to account.
On Friday (Oct. 20), the Dominica News Online had also posted the article first published by Caribbean News Now. However, on Sunday (Oct. 22), the media house offered a public apology to PM Harris.
It stated: “On 20 October 2017, Dominica News Online published a false article entitled ‘St. Kitts-Nevis PM now revealed to hold Dominica diplomatic passport, on its website.
"The article contained numerous alleged, false statements about Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, as well as a falsified image of a diplomatic Dominican passport issued in the Prime Minister’s name.”
It also stated that the media house neither contacedt Dr. Harris before publishing the article, nor did it have the image independently verified prior to posting it online.
“Dominica News Online has no basis to believe that the Prime Minister holds a passport issued by a country other than St. Kitts and Nevis. We have been informed that the only passport that the Prime Minister holds –and has ever held – is one issued by St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We apologize without reservation to the Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris for all the harm caused to him and his reputation by our actions in publishing this erroneous article. We also sincerely apologize for not having contacted the Prime Minister to get his side of the story prior to publishing the article, and the statements and images therein.”
It further stated that the media house sought to make it abundantly clear that the article was not posted with any malicious intent. “We re-published an article from a source which we consider a credible one. The re-publishing of the statements therein were, again, not meant to defame the Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris...”
Curious minds, especially the young, may ask what the reasons are for some politicians to be engaging in propaganda. One man’s answer was: “Those who are in government want to remain in office, and those in opposition want to take their place. Both sides would do almost anything to be in control, thus the spread of a doctrine that erodes the perception of truth.”
Propaganda is one of the realities in life. It is symptomatic of the way some politicians behave and it will continue to exist despite the fact that the proponents could be taken before the courts on a regular basis.
Simply put, propaganda is a lie. And as said by Charles Spurgeon, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Many politicians crave for power and, when it is achieved, they would do almost anything to remain in office. But, it is advised that principles must not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.
It is also advised that whenever a party wins an election, it should strive at all cost to fulfil its promises to the electorate regardless of which party or parties they supported; it should avert the blame game syndrome; work assiduously with the assets it has to make life better for all; wherever possible, strive to improve on inherited projects, investments and programmes; and ensure that the wealth gained is equitably distributed among the people.
By so doing, that party could be guaranteed life-long governance.
On the other hand, while opposition parties are holding the governments’ feet to the proverbial fire, they too should refrain from propagandising and offer solutions to national problems and issues.
Opposition parties can turn the ship that is heading in the wrong direction by publicly offering positive and excellent advice to the government.
These things will not go unnoticed and opposition parties would stand a good chance in replace the ruling parties whenever there is an election.
One of the axioms in Public Relations is never draw attention to bad news by attempting to rebut it. And this writer strongly believes that a nation runs a very dangerous risk if it accepts what the author of a published statement says it means.